Injury to the brain continues to be a unique thing in medicine. These injuries are scary and unfamiliar to many health care providers. There is a finality to them. Their consequences are hidden a little bit; the asystole is easy to figure in the emergency room but the suppression and brain death isn’t something so easily recognized.
They’re what you might imagine, along with polytrauma, as poster child conditions for tertiarization and transfer to a higher level of care.
In truly catastrophic injury to the brain however, I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
My institution has had a small discussion lately on just what ethics and the law requires of us as a place with full neuro specialty coverage.
I’ll make up an example:
A 61 year old man comes into a small community hospital’s emergency room. He was found down at home by his wife and last seen normal four hours previously. He wouldn’t wake up and he was breathing slowly and shallowly. The ambulance crew intubated him. In the emergency room his pupils are large and don’t react to light and he doesn’t do anything when the doctor hurts him. He’s in a very deep coma. If the physician working the emergency room felt comfortable doing a brain death exam, which he doesn’t, the patient might have some very primitive reflexes left but his condition is very serious.